Song: The Road Not Taken
Artist: Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Williamsburg, VA
Notes: A song written about a girl he’s always loved in a Virginia town, but the one that got away ('I see her in my mind and then, I go down the road not taken ... again'), and featuring the most distinctive piano playing in rock music. It's of such a high calibre, so artfully crafted it’s easy to overlook what a terrific singer and lyricist he is as well. Turning 60 this November, he's currently on the road and will be through November 2nd - check out the dates at brucehornsby.com. If you want to witness the skill of maybe the greatest piano player of the rock era do yourself a favor and see him live.
Song: Way Back When
Artist: Kodaline, Ireland
Album: In A Perfect World, 2013
Notes: A lightly swaying toe-tapper from the band's terrific LP from last year, while 'All I Want', another extract from the collection, was included in the soundtrack to the summer weepie movie smash, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. One of the best groups to emerge from Dublin in recent years, they’ve already scored two #1 singles in their home country. A five-week US tour is scheduled to begin on October 2nd at the House of Blues in Houston. For the full itinerary, check out kodaline.com/us.
Song: Arizona Sky
Artist: China Crisis, England
Album: What Price Paradise, 1986
Notes: An overlooked gem from a Merseyside group based around the duo of Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon. The band emerged in the UK as part of the New Wave synth-pop rock movement, although their influences were more Steely Dan than anyone else, which blossomed in the early ‘80s, but were always in the shadow of more popular acts like OMD and the Human League. They're still going today after a remarkable 35 years together though mostly as a live act - although after a 20-year gap, a new album is on the horizon, the crowd-funded 'Autumn In The Neighbourhood'.
Song: Maybe I'm Right
Artist: Tarney Spencer Band, Australia
Album: Three's A Crowd, 1978
Notes: High harmonies from another era. Alan Tarney and Trevor Spencer began making music together as teenagers in Melbourne, Australia and were members of a mid-’60s psychedelic rock combo called James Taylor Move. After moving to the UK, they both became in-demand pop songwriters, musicians and producers throughout the '70s and '80s, notably for Cliff Richard, though Tarney also produced hits for the likes of Squeeze, a-ha and David Cassidy. During that time they also teamed up as their own recording act, yielding three splendid albums - all now long forgotten.
Song: Psycho Killer
Artist: Talking Heads, Scotland/Fort Campbell, KY/Coronado, CA/Milwaukee, WI
Album: Talking Heads: 77 1977
Notes: Such a distinctive and memorable bass line and a French language bridge thrown in for good measure featured on the very first single by Talking Heads, which, despite becoming one of their most iconic songs in hindsight, only reached #92 on the Billboard Hot 100 - perhaps it was indeed the French lyrics. Obviously a rather disturbing subject matter: David Byrne subsequently said about writing the song, 'When I started writing this I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both The Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies'.
Artist: Keira Knightley, England
Notes: Co-written by Gregg Alexander, he of New Radicals fame, and one of several surprisingly good cuts from the film soundtrack to 'Begin Again' directed by John Carney, the movie maker behind 'Once'. The movie co-stars the ubiquitous Adam Levine in his big-screen debut, alongside Keira Knightley, both of them playing aspiring songwriters, CeeLo Green, Mos Def and actors Mark Ruffalo and James Corden, one of the funniest men on the planet and future host of CBS-TV's 'The Late Late Show'.
Artist: Little Children, Sweden
Album: In Hau (EP), 2013
Notes: Tender, dark musings in a haunting, stylish Americana-inflected curiosity from, of all places, Sweden. The singular tunesmith Linus Lutti used to be one half of Idiot Kid but has now adopted a new moniker with some Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Will Oldham even John Martyn influences clearly evident. More at littlechildrenmusic.com.
Artist: Kokomo, England
Album: Kokomo, 1982
Notes: Some legitimate old school British soul music from 30+ years ago from a band formed by Tony O'Malley and Terry Stannard from the remnants of the group Arrival. The 10-member combo, formed in London in 1973, featured three lead vocalists and cut two albums as well as helping on Bob Dylan's 'Desire' before going on hiatus in 1977. They went back into the studio in 1981 to record a third album before calling it quits the following year. The band members continued as in-demand session players and reformed briefly in 2008.
Song: Are You Living
Artist: General Ghost, Philadelphia, PA/Mechanicsburg, PA
Album: Not available
Notes: A crisp, hook-laden rhythm track from a Nashville band fronted by Kyle Rictor and Jon Howard, with their respective wives Kelsey Rictor and Natalie Taylor adding sweet vocals. They got together two years ago and have released two EPs in that time. Howard also plays guitar for Paramore, while Rictor and his wife perform as Rictor. More at generalghost.com. Regrettably this cut still isn’t yet available for commercial consumption.
Artist: Katie Herzig, Fort Collins, CO
Album: Walk Through Walls, 2014
Notes: A long time L&F favorite with one of several worthwhile cuts from her fifth studio album which was released in April on which she continues to mine her longstanding themes of 'love and loss, hope and fear'. California born, Colorado raised, indeed an alumnus of the University of Colorado at Boulder where she graduated in journalism and long-based in Nashville. More at katieherzig.com.
Song: Wide Awake
Artist: Josh Record, England
Album: Pillars, 2014
Notes: Just getting started on his career, an acoustic songsmith who left his home in Gloucestershire in the English west country at 16 to study music in London. Already picking up strong reviews in the UK, the Sunday Times says 'his keening falsetto invites comparisons to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon - Record has a sensational debut album in him'. Signed to Virgin Records late last year, 'Pillar' marks the first fruits with the label. More at joshrecord.com.
Song: Golden Twin
Artist: Wild Ones, Portland, OR
Album: Keep It Safe, 2013
Notes: An hypnotic dreamy-rock bubbler hallmarked by the pixie-ish lead vocal of Danielle Sullivan. The six-piece assembled in 2010 but nearly disbanded in 2012 after guitarist Clayton Knapp blew his eardrum, their drummer Seve Sheldon suffered a punctured lung and they were running out of cash - but they perserved and were signed up to the well-groovy Party Damage Records indie label and finally got their debut album out. More on them on the label site, partydamagerecords.com.
Song: Say You Won't
Artist: Amy Stroup, Boston, MA
Album: Tunnel, 2014
Notes: The Nashville singer/songwriter's second full-length album is knee-deep in lost rubies, like this mellifluous beauty. She describes the album as representing 'a process of healing and a place to express the small self actualizing truths I've learned over the last couple of years'. In February, Amy and her Sugar & The Hi Lows cohort Trent Dabbs collaborated with the Nashville Ballet company for an original ballet set to the iconic music of Johnny Cash - the CD for which 'Wild Desire (Johnny Cash Live Sessions)' was released in July. More at amystroup.com.
Song: Cracking Up
Artist: Nick Lowe, England
Album: Labor Of Lust, 1979
Notes: A cool, dark slice of new wave, pub rock from 1979, written, produced and performed by Nick Lowe, who’s only really enjoyed one hit stateside, 'Cruel To Be Kind'. He’s been making winning, uncompromising music in so many different styles since first emerging in 1967 and is still going strong today, indeed in 2011 a music critic from The New York Times wrote, 'The 40-year career of the English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe constitutes a paradox: the songs he has written are better known than he is'. His latest album, 'Quality Street - A Seasonal Selection For All The Family', described on his website as 'the kind of record that gives vulgar, tawdry commercialism a good name' was released last year. More at nicklowe.com.
Song: Gold Dust
Artist: Brynn Elliott, Atlanta, GA
Album: Notions Of Love, 2014
Notes: A superbly crafted nugget from an Atlanta-based singer/songwriter who is just starting out at Harvard University. She was taught to sing from the age of three by her grandfather and picked up the guitar and piano as a teenager - but it wasn’t until the tragic death of a close friend just a couple of years ago that she was inspired to pour her soul into music even though she was still attending high school. She only recently made her performing debut, describing it thus: 'From studio to stage, something shifted'. More on young Brynn at brynnelliott.com.
Song: In The Morning
Artist: Nicole Reynolds, Pittsburgh, PA
Album: This Arduous Alchemy, 2007
Notes: An indie-folk pearl from a sorely overlooked 2007 long-player. For many years her day job was living and working on a small organic sheep farm in Western Pennsylvania, but she's released a succession of beautifully crafted acoustic albums since bowing in 2006 with 'Wolves Won’t Eat Us'. More at nicolereynoldsmusic.com which she created and maintains all on her lonesome.
Song: Goin' Back
Artist: Nils Lofgren, Chicago, IL
Album: Nils Lofgren, 1975
Notes: A fabulous update of the timeless Gerry Goffin and Carole King classic and the final track on his very first solo album which got sparse attention at the time but is now regarded as somewhat of an overlooked classic. Ten years later, he joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band just in time for the 'Born In The USA' sojourn, and has been an integral member of the backing unit ever since, still with the Boss on this year’s 'High Hopes' tour. Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an E-streeter, next month sees the release of 'Face The Music', a 10-disc limited boxed set career retrospective. More at nilslofgren.com.
Artist: Cherry Ghost, England
Album: Herd Runners, 2014
Notes: Radiant but noirish melodic pop with stellar strings from an indie rock combo who took their name from the Wilco song 'Theologians'. Firmly built around the talents of a former Maths teacher, Simon Aldred, who's from the northern English town on Bolton. (Their first single was called 'Mathematics'.) One of the band’s most popular cuts is 'People Help The People', which gave Birdy her first hit in Europe. Incidentally, Aldred also released a synth-pop solo album last year under the moniker Out Cold called 'Invasion Of Love', which is also worth a sniff. More at cherryghost.co.uk.
Artist: Bear's Den, England
Album: Without/Within [EP], 2014
Notes: An affectionate ode from a London-based jangly indie-folk trio, comprising Andrew Davie, Joey Haynes and Kevin Jones, unsurprisingly signed by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons to his uber-hip Communion label a couple of years ago. They toured in 2012 with Ben Howard and the Staves - and there are a number worthwhile videos for your perusal at their web destination: bearsdenmusic.co.uk. They begin a US tour on October 25th in Philadelphia, through November 25th.
Artist: Dionne Warwick & Jeffrey Osborne, East Orange, NJ/Providence, RI
Notes: Saccharine soul of the highest order with the unmistakable vocal bliss of Dionne Warwick trading loyalty love notes with the still underrated soul veteran Jeffrey Osborne. Recorded as a followup to their inferior 1987 hit, 'Love Power' and despite its drop-dead caliber, it failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100 all those years ago. Both artists are still going strong after a combined 84 years in the business - more at dionnewarwick.us and jeffreyosborne.com.
Song: Be Still My Heart
Artist: Peter Bradley Adams, Birmingham, AL
Album: The Mighty Storm, 2014
Notes: From his consistently literate recent offering, the every reliable L&F show regular, who hails from Birmingham, Alabama but is now based in New York. Such an understated, modest and thoughtful melody maker, Adams was formerly in the terrific duo Eastmountainsouth with Kat Maslich-Bode, releasing one perfect eponymous album in 2003 - it’s a true masterpiece. (After they split, Maslich-Bode took a break from music, but has a solo EP 'The Road Of Six', which is well worth checking out.) Adams has cut five delicious solo sets since 2006, each one of them simply packed with precious lost Americana gems, and he'll be playing a few dates in November More at peterbradleyadams.com.
Song: She's With Me
Artist: Don Williams, Floydada, FL
Album: And So It Goes, 2012
Notes: Perhaps a tad possessive in its lyrical bent, but tender top-of-the-class balladry from the gentle giant of country music, from his time-stands-still 2012 album, which was his first fresh studio release in eight years. The album featured lovely guest turns by the likes of Alison Krauss, Keith Urban and Vince Gill, all paying homage to one of the greats - the deeply unhip, brilliant evergreen Mr. Williams, now 75 years young, married to his wife Joy for 54 years and counting. Back on the road, check for dates at don-williams.com.
Artist: Angela McCluskey, Scotland
Album: Dream [single], 2008
Notes: An irresistible pop-soul belter from the lead singer of the California-based folk-pop combo the Wild Colonials, although she hails from Scotland. As well as doing a lot of work with French poptronicaoutfit, the grammy-nominated Telepopmusik, she’s released a couple of solo albums and a bunch of EPs over the past decade. This number was a one-off single recorded for the UNICEF Pampers charity in 2008. In July, she played a month-long residency at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York, performing with her husband, and fellow Wild Colonial, Paul Cantelon. More on her at angelamccluskey.com.
Artist: Van Morrison, Northern Ireland
Album: Enlightenment, 1990
Notes: Utterly original and frankly brilliant, the blue-eyed soul of Van Morrison with a nostalgic teenage tale about the joys of listening to the radio and hearing music growing up in Belfast. Co-written with Irish poet Paul Duncan, it recalls the days of listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bed covers - a ritual of growing up in the UK - and hearing music by the great rhythm and blues architects of rock'n'roll in the 1950s - the likes of Fats Domino, Elvis, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, all of whom he mentions in this epic. By the way, Lester Piggott, who is also name checked on the song, is regarded as the greatest flat racing jockey of all time.
Song: St. Croix
Artist: Family of the Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Loma Vista, 2012
Notes: A band truly maturing into a top-flight combo with a track bursting with smart hook-filled West Coast indie pop/rock. The indie folksters were formed just four years ago by Welsh-born brothers, frontman Joseph and drummer Sebastian Keefe, who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard. Vocalist Christina Schroeter and James Buckey make up the foursome. Their song 'Hero' was featured in the highly rated Richard Linklater film 'Boyhood'. More at familyoftheyear.net.
Song: Details In The Fabric
Artist: Jason Mraz featuring James Morrison, Mechanicsville, VA/England
Notes: Some fabulous vocal switching and harmonies throughout this quiet little corker, which was recorded the same year as Morrison's duet with Nelly Furtado. Mraz has cut a series of terrific albums in the last decade and has frequently collaborated with peers such as Ingrid Michaelson, Jack Johnson and Colbie Caillat. He leads an interesting life outside of music, owning an avocado farm near San Diego and being an active supporter of several charities. Mraz is currently on the road; for details check jasonmraz.com.
Artist: Harry Nilsson and Dr. John, Brooklyn, NY/New Orleans, LA
Notes: A previously unreleased demo included on a staggering 17-CD boxed set collection issued last year by RCA, collecting just about everything the great Harry Nilsson recorded - 14 of his solo albums from the '60s and '70s and three more CDs of unissued rarities. Alyn Shipton's brilliant 'Nilsson - The Life Of A Singer-Songwriter' is an absoutely essential read. (There's a delightful story about Nilsson playing for his high school baseball against a team that included Boston Red Sox future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.) Equally wonderful is the movie documentary 'Who Is Harry Nilsson and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him'. 20 years since his death, his music lives on, as witnessed by his website: harrynilsson.com.
Song: Dead Hearts
Artist: Stars, Canada
Album: The Five Ghosts, 2010
Notes: Every carefully crafted stanza of this remarkable song is so mellifluous, so eloquent and so inviting. The group, based in Montreal, was founded by Torquil Campbell, Chris Seligman and Amy Millan. They’ve cut six albums since 2001 - all rather fascinating and worthwhile. They opened for Coldplay on some Canadian dates in 2008, and also went down a treat at the 2013 Coachella festival. Campbell has a tendency to be outspoken and has claimed his country's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has 'destroyed a country, raped an environment, lied to his people, and played shitty Elton John covers'. More at youarestars.com.
Song: Haul Away
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Privateering, 2012
Notes: A tender sea-tale from an album described by The Financial Times as 'a fine set of songs about masculine struggle and salvation with a ""Knopflerian” cast of working-class characters - sailors, farmers, van drivers - and set to a variety of moods: Celtic folk-rock, gnarly blues, gruff rock and roll ... Superb backing from Scottish folk musicians and Nashville session men gives these blue-collar tales an expert craftsman’s finish'. It's hard to believe it's been almost 20 years since Dire Straits broke up, but Knopfler's solo career has arguably been even more impressive. More at markknopfler.com.
Song: Carry You Home
Artist: Jamie Scott, England
Album: Hurricane, 2014
Notes: This glorious ballad previews the precociously talented singer/songwriter/producer's sophomore solo set due next week. It’s an atypical love song, more about sterling friendship than the usual soppy topic of romance. He released a terrific album in 2007 as Jamie Scott and The Town, before teaming up with Tommy D to form the duo Graffiti6. They have a new album just released called 'The Bridge'. During his seven-year recording hiatus he has been writing hit records for the likes of One Direction, JLS, Enrique Iglesias, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Christina Perri. More at jamie-scott.com.
Song: Where I Fall
Artist: Reindeer Section, Scotland
Album: Son Of Evil Reindeer, 2002
Notes: A man on the verge of emotional and psychological collapse, his heart torn apart, his life now bereft of the woman he loved, his mind wandering through the wreckage unable to find any peace, craving solitude while he goes half-mad. From the pen of Snow Patrol's frontman Gary Lightbody with a solo acoustic weepie released under the umbrella of his ad-hoc collective combo, Reindeer Section, described by Lightbody 'as pretty much all very slow, quiet, folky-type stuff', from its 2002 sophomore long-player.
Artist: Nice Little Penguins, Denmark
Album: Alarmingly Happy, 2012
Notes: Fabulous, cheerful, ukulele-driven indie folk-pop from a Danish trio, comprising brothers Michael and Carsten Kolster and Bo Feierskov. They’ve been playing together since 1983, mixing a bashful cocktail of jazz standards, Nordic folk songs, beat classics, Danish pop songs and a few of their own compositions. Known as Nice Little Penguins since 1992 their stated mission is to 'spread joy and good vibrations like their musical idols, The Beatles, The Police and Crowded House'. Facebook them at /nicelittlepenguins.
Song: Long World
Artist: Christopher Cross, San Antonio, TX
Album: Another Page, 1983
Notes: A lost treasure buried on his sophomore LP from 1983 - a perfectly executed ballad from the five-time Grammy Award winner (all in one night no less). No longer the commercial force he was 30 years ago, but still releasing highly-melodic pop rock fare including last’s year’s excellent 'A Night In Paris' live long-player. One of the artists who came to define Adult Contemporary radio back in the early '80s, he made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's show earlier this year singing his signature hit 'Ride Like The Wind' with Anchorman Ron Burgundy - fun stuff (The song is featured on 'Anchorman 2'). More at christophercross.com.
Artist: Federico Aubele, Argentina
Album: Gran Hotel Buenos Aires,
Notes: Flamenco, accordion, reggae beats, cool female vocal making up the magical stew that is Federico Aubele. He’s Argentinian, but now lives in Brooklyn, and has released five fascinating, really worthwhile albums. This track was produced by uber-hip American electronica whiz-kids, Thievery Corporation, and features his wife, the lovely Natalia Clavier, on vocals. He describes his music-making thus: 'It's an intimate process for me, and I need to respect that intimacy. I can't work If I have people around, talking. For a lot of people, making music is a social experience, and that's fine, but it doesn't work like that for me. The social part for me comes afterwards, when I'm on stage performing with my band, in front of a crowd'. More at federicoaubele.com.
Artist: Ingrid Olava, Norway
Album: Not available
Notes: The Lillehammer native began her musical career learning to play 'Do-Re-Mi' from 'The Sound Of Music' on a piano in her neighbor's basement, before joining the band Ten Sing, but she soon turned to acting. Heard by EMI Music Norway, she signed a recording deal which has seen three albums released since 2008. More at ingridolava.com or nb-no.facebook.com/IngridOlava, but you'll have to brush up on your Norwegian.
Artist: Queen, England
Album: The Game, 1980
Notes: Written by the group's John Deacon, whose bass line was inspired by Chic's 'Good Times', the song was featured on Queen's eighth studio album and was subsequently released as a single at the recommendation of Michael Jackson. The group is back on the road, with Adam Lambert trying to step into the shoes of Freddie Mercury - although Deacon retired in 1997 and no amount of persuasion will bring him back into the fold. He has even declined to participate in the making of the Queen biopic, which will star Ben Wishaw as the mercurial lead singer. (He's also been announced as the voice of Paddington Bear in the forthcoming movie - now there's a resumé.)